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  • Writer's pictureJeff Guymon

Virginia Car Registration: Everything You Need to Know

This article will serve as your complete guide to the Virginia car registration and teach you how to register your new car, renew your registration, and register your vehicle if you are new to the state.

The following questions will be addressed:

  • How do I complete renewal registration online in Virginia?

  • How do I re-register a car in Virginia offline?

  • How do I register my out-of-state vehicle in Virginia?

  • How do I register a vehicle for the first time in Virginia?

  • What fees might be involved in car registration?

  • What sort of inspection is needed?

  • Are there any special rules or cases for registration?

How to Renew your Registration Online

The VA DMV offers an online platform as a fast and convenient way to renew your registration.

In addition, using the internet to renew registration will discount your fees by $1. Renew your VA registration from the comfort of your home here.

Before registering your car, you should receive a registration renewal reminder in the mail or by email, if you have signed up for this option. The renewal notice details your registration expiration, fees, and specifies whether an emissions inspection is due for your vehicle. It will also address any delinquent property tax payments or any outstanding parking or toll violations you may have. These will need to be resolved and paid before registering your vehicle. Note, If you did not receive your notice in the mail and have recently moved, you may need to update your address with the DMV.

If your vehicle needs an emission test, you will need to take care of this before registering your car. For more information on what vehicles must be smog checked and the emission process, please see “Smog and Inspection” below.

To be prepared when registering online, you must have:

  • Your vehicle registration card

  • A valid form of payment

    • Credit Card (Discover, MasterCard, Visa or American Express)

    • Debit card (MasterCard or Visa)

  • Passed an Emissions test if it was required for your vehicle

View this video, provided by the DMV, for an easy step-by-step guide on renewing registration online.

Renew Registration Online in 9 Simple Steps

  1. Go to

  2. Below “Online Services,” click “Vehicle Registration”.

  3. Enter the Title Number and the last four digits of your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

    1. You can find this information on your current registration.

  4. When prompted, verify your vehicle’s information.

    1. If you find any information listed is inconsistent with your registration or vehicle, log into your DMV account with your PIN and fix the information before continuing the renewal process.

  5. Choose the duration of renewal (one year, two years, or three years).

  6. Answer if your car has valid vehicle insurance.

    1. If you do not maintain valid car insurance, you will have to pay a $500 fee.

  7. Next, it will ask if your vehicle is intended for private or business use.

  8. After, it will ask if you would like to be an organ donor. If you do, a $2 fee will be charged.

  9. The last step is to put in credit card information to pay for your registration fees. For more information on these fees, please see “Fees and Taxes” below.

Most Virginia residents receive their complete registration and Virginia license plates in the mail within 5 business days. Every U.S. shipping order is different, and Covid-19 has slowed many shipments, so wait 15 days until contacting the DMV.

  • If you are renewing your registration online less than 15 days before your expiration date, make sure to print out an Official Internet Receipt. You can do this at the last step of the renewal process after your fees have been paid. Combining this receipt and your registration card will extend your registration 15 days after your renewal date.

  • If your registration has already expired less than 90 days, print the Official Internet Receipt. The DMV will add a $10 late fee for registering after your expiration date.

Additional Information

Virginia offers three different registration cycles: 1 year, 2 years, and 3 years. The only motor vehicles that are not eligible for a multi-year registration are those that weigh over 55,000 lbs, are uninsured, or are registered under the International Registration Plan. Depending on the renewal interval you chose, your registration fees will change. For more information on this, please see the “Fees and Taxes” section below.

How to Renew Your Registration Offline

Even though renewing registration online is convenient, you do have other options. You may mail in your registration or go into a DMV select office.

By Mail

To renew by mail, you must:

  • Complete your registration renewal form

  • If eligible, Select “2-year renewal” for a $2 discount

  • Include payment in the form of a money order or check made payable to “Virginia DMV”

You will put these items in the envelope and send them to:

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles

Attn: Renewal Center

P.O. Box 27412

Richmond, VA 23269-0001

Renew your registration at a DMV or DMV Select Office

DMV Select Offices are private entities contracted with the Virginia DMV to make DMV processes more accessible to Virginia residents. Find your nearest DMV Select here. Like the online renewal and mail-in options, you must bring your renewal notice and payment form.

Due to safety precautions with the Covid-19 pandemic, the DMV asks customers to use the online platform or mail renewal process before resorting to going in person. If your renewal can not be resolved in this manner, you can visit your local DMV by appointment only. You can make an appointment here: Virginia DMV Scheduling & Locations (COVID Updated).

Regardless of how you complete your registration renewal, your plates’ average delivery time is 5 days, but it may take up to 15 days. To learn more about payments due, scroll down to “Taxes and Fees”.

New Resident Registration

If you have just moved to Virginia, there are a couple of steps that need to be done before you can title and register your vehicle.

To be considered a Virginia resident, you must meet one of the following criteria:

To prove you have established residency in Virginia, you must bring two of the following documents into the DMV:

  • A Utility bill

  • A signed lease agreement

  • A pay stub showing your name and address

  • A complete bank statement showing your name, address, and transactions.

Once you are considered a resident, you will have 30 days to register and title your vehicle in the state. After 30 days, late fees incur.

Before going to the DMV to start these processes, you must complete the following tasks:

  • Buy Virginia auto insurance

  • Complete vehicle safety inspection and emissions check

    • See heading “Smog and Inspection Requirements” for more about inspections

Steps to title and register your vehicle as a new resident:

  1. Present the following documents

    1. Completed Application for Title and Registration.

      1. In Virginia, your vehicle is required to have a VA title to register.

    2. Proof of identity and address

    3. Your previous state’s title and registration

    4. Proof of VA insurance or pay $500 uninsured fee if you don't meet insurance requirements

    5. If bought within a year, you must show proof of vehicle purchase price i.e. a Bill of Sale.

  2. Pay fees (read “Fees and Taxes” heading)

    1. Titling fee

    2. Registration fee

    3. Motor Vehicle Sales and use tax

  3. Accurately record odometer reading in the title’s assignment section

    1. This task will be done at the DMV

  4. Select a paper or electronic title

    1. A paper title will be mailed within 5-15 business days, an electronic title will be held at the DMV and can be accessed by going in-person to print out a copy when needed.

Your tags, title, and plates will be sent within 5 to 15 business days.

The VA DMV provides a helpful how-to video if you have any additional questions.

How to Register a Recently Purchased Vehicle

Did you just purchase a car from a dealer?

If the vehicle is purchased from a Virginia dealer, they will transfer the title and register the vehicle on your behalf within 30 days of the sale. If the dealer does not do you this courtesy, you are responsible for registering your new vehicle in-person at the DMV. As stated previously, you must schedule an appointment to be seen.

Before your appointment at the DMV, you must:

  • Complete an Application for Registration (Form VSA 14)

  • Gather proof of address and identification.

  • Obtain your vehicle's emission certificate

  • Purchase auto insurance or pay the $500 uninsured motorist fee.

  • Bring a credit card to pay for registration fees

After registering your new vehicle, the DMV will mail your plates, sticker, and registration certification between 5-15 business days. Now that you have your complete registration, you must also:

  • Notify your insurance company that you have purchased a new vehicle

  • Make sure your newly-purchased vehicle has a safety inspection sticker. See “Smog and Inspection Requirements” for more details.

Did you just purchase a car from a private party?

If the vehicle is purchased from a non-dealer, you are responsible for transferring the title and completing registration.

You will need all of the above items with the following exceptions and additional documents:

Fees and Taxes

Virginia vehicle registration fees are calculated with consideration to the vehicle’s gross weight, the type of license plate, and the registration’s length of time (one, two, or three year periods). As of July 1, 2020, the Virginia DMV updated their registration fees.

DMV Vehicle Registration Fees

** Electric vehicles now require a Highway Use Fee. Since the Commonwealth Transportation Fund is funded mainly by motor fuel taxes, the DMV mandates this $88.20 fee to compensate for the lack of motor fuel being bought from electric vehicles.

Other Fees

The Virginia DMV provides discounts for longer registration periods. For example, renewing your registration for 2 years will save you $2, and registering for 3 years will reduce your fees by $3.

To calculate your vehicle’s exact registration fees, use the DMV registration fee calculator. To view the DMV’s complete fee chart, click here.

Smog and Inspection Requirements

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality requires vehicles in specific counties to get an emission’s check for first-time registration and every-other-year before renewing registration in an attempt to regulate air quality.

This inspection pertains to gasoline-powered and diesel vehicles garaged in:

  • Counties of: Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and Stafford

  • Cities of: Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park

Vehicles exempted from the inspection requirement are:

  • Motorcycles

  • Three-wheeled autocycle

  • Gasoline-powered passenger vehicles 25 model years or older (emissions are not required, but a $2 emissions fee is added to registration fee)

  • Electric vehicles

  • Passenger vehicles weighing over 10,000 lbs.

  • New vehicles being titled for the first time (valid for 4 years)

Vehicle inspections should be completed according to the length of renewal on your vehicle.

  • First-time registrations require emission checks to be done less than 90 days before registration.

  • One-year registrations mandate a passed inspection to be no more than 3 months old.

  • Two-year registrations require a passed emissions test no more than 15 months old.

  • Three-year registrations require a passed emissions test to be no more than 27 months old.

Virginia emissions inspections are valid for a period of 2 years and can be completed by:

  • Drive-by RAPIDPASS emissions station. A RAPIDPASS station is a drive-by emissions inspection site that inspects your vehicle in seconds and electronically sends the passed test to the DMV in 24 hours. Find your nearest on-road RAPIDPASS location.

  • Emissions Inspection Stations. You will be given a paper Inspections Certification if you pass. Find your nearest station here.

Both methods have a maximum fee of $28 and do not require you to bring any documentation. If you don’t pass inspection, you have 14 days to fix any repairs and retest for free.

Safety Inspections

Virginia State Police require an annual safety inspection on all vehicles in VA. The safety inspection requires law enforcement to ensure the safety of each vehicle by checking the breaks, headlights, signals, wheels, mirrors, etc. The maximum fee is $51 for heavy trucks, $12 for motorcycles and autocycles, and $20 for all other vehicles. Even though it is not a requirement for registration, you may be ticketed if your vehicle does not have a valid safety inspection sticker that is valid within 12 months of your registration expiration. Find more information on if your vehicle is included, the exact procedure, and where to go at the Virginia State Police website.

This video explains the importance of safety inspections:

Special Circumstances

Vehicles Sold To Charity

In the state of Virginia, motor vehicles that are sold to or donated to non-profit Virginia charities are exempt from motor vehicle sales and use tax. To donate or sell a car to a participating charity, you must transfer the title to the charity’s name. You will have to pay a $15 titling fee in order to donate/sell your vehicle.

Trip Permits

If you ever need to drive an unregistered vehicle in VA and need a 3-day temporary permit, you may apply for a Trip Permit. This document allows a driver to drive from one location to another legally. These can be especially useful if you are moving your car to a new place within Virginia, if you need to drive to the DMV to register your vehicle or drive to an inspection. You can apply for a Trip Permit online for a $5 fee. If you do not have car insurance, you will have to pay an additional $41.67. You can print this permit and display it in your vehicle’s left rear window.

Refinance your Vehicle

Now that you are well-informed of Virginia motor vehicle registration renewal, new registration, fees and taxes, and inspections, you should now take a look at how you can save money by refinancing your car loan. Many vehicle owners are overpaying for their car loans. This is where WithClutch’s Refinance calculator comes into play; follow these simple steps to save time and money!

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